WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) introduced the Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Population (HEADs Up) Act of 2021.

The HEADs Up Act would direct the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to designate people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) as a Medically Underserved Population. HRSA programs provide health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically, or medically vulnerable.

“We must do more to ensure that all Americans have access to basic health care, especially those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who often have more complex medical needs,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan legislation which seeks to remove the barriers to care that exist for those within the IDD community so that they can lead healthy lives.”

“There are clear cracks in America’s health care system, and one example is the way we treat those among us who require the most complex care,” said Congressman Moulton. “Citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve quality treatment just like everyone else, and America has an obligation to provide that. We’ve come so far, but there is still more ground to cover. With this bill, we can expand health care resources to make them more available to these Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to get this passed.”

“The millions of Americans who live with intellectual disability often have complex medical needs that can result in unnecessary trips to the ER and hospital when not managed well by providers who understand their needs. Now more than ever, the pandemic has highlighted that this population is more vulnerable and complex than others. The HEADS Up Act will help ensure that these people get the specialized care they need by providing funding for and incentivizing individualized wraparound primary and specialty care that will improve care quality and reduce costs,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, President and CEO of Woods Services in Langhorne, PA.

The change in designation would give Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities access to new primary care and specialist services, incentivize new research, and authorize more favorable reimbursement rates for providers who treat Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

The “Medically Underserved” designation was created with the passage of the Health Centers Consolidation Act of 1996. Despite years of advocacy and ample evidence that people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities qualify for the designation, Congress still has not provided these Americans with it.

The designation as a special medically underserved population would open up more than 25 government programs within the HRSA and other federal agencies for participation by the I/DD population.

These programs include:

  • Federal funding for health centers and public health infrastructure such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC)
  • Eligibility to apply for federal funding to develop and operate Community Health Centers
  • Access to loan repayment and training programs in HRSA’s Workforce Development and Training Programs, including the National Health Service Corps Scholarships
  • Incentives for physicians to treat this population in the form of higher CMS reimbursement rates for physician services delivered in Health Professional Shortage Areas, a designation closely related to MUP
  • Preference given to research at federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, that studies medically underserved populations